In 2004, I visited all 25 countries in Eastern Europe. You'll find the blog entries from that trip here. In 2008-2011, I returned to see what had changed since that time. With these two visits, five years apart, I accumulated enough material for my new book, The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us.
This map reflects how I define Eastern Europe. Eastern Europeans love to deny that they're in Eastern Europe. I tackle how and why I define Eastern Europe the way I do in the Introduction of The Hidden Europe.
"Man, I would have totally skipped that if I had to do it again."
Sound familiar? Travel, like pretty much everything in our lives, suffers from 20-20 hindsight. No matter how much you plan, research, and get tips from your friends, the reality is always at least a little different from those early research stages. Some places turn out to be tourist traps and others unexpectedly wonderful places. So why do so few of us go do the same thing twice? It is that wonder, that excitement of doing something the first time that is so amazing, it can't be replicated, no matter how hard you try.
Like any sane person with a healthy dose of wanderlust, I too dream of some day exploring Eastern Europe. Will it live up to expectations? I don't know. Will it exceed them? I hope so. But, like everything that is worth while, it all starts with a dream.
These are 7 places in Eastern Europe that spring into my head when the lights go off and I start dozing off....
With the recent news about Ukraine and the Crimea, you might be scared to go to Eastern Europe. Don't.
You can even be safe in Ukraine, but in this guest post, Jenny Corteza focuses on far away Eastern European lands....
Guest post by Jenny Corteza:
In early 2014, a lot of travelers are asking if Eastern Europe is safe for travel. I've been to the area and I wanted to let you know what I think.
Even if you read a lot of other travel blogs and keep up with the recent news in the region, it's still a good idea to get advice from someone who knows the area well. And I do because I've traveled there frequently over the past two decades of my life - both for business and pleasure.
Serbia is one of those places that conjures up plenty of preconceptions in people’s minds: wars, embargoes, lawlessness, and many other problems that afflicted the region in the past. Like a lot of preconceptions, there is a grain of truth buried amongst mountains of ignorance and chinese-whispers.
Despite news stories involving decade-old wars and the recent trouble with racist football fans, Serbia is slowly regaining a reputation as a progressive and interesting holiday-destination, with new cultural figures to represent modern Serbia in a positive light to the world: Novak Djokovic, Emir Kusturica, the critically acclaimed director, and NBA superstar Marko Jaric, who is also married to Adriana Lima.
If you didn't know it, Hungary is actually one of the most visited countries in the entire world. They're around fifteen on the list, in fact. One of the main reasons it's such a favorite place to travel is that the money you spend there goes a long way - not to mention all the fun things they have to do.
What to See and Do in Hungary
Here's a roundup of 22 different places to see and things to do while visiting Budapest Hungary. I'm not going to tell you how long it took me to see all these different places, but it's a lot shorter amount of time than you might think.
Let's face it, when you think of a beach destination, Eastern Europe is one of the last places that will come to mind. And that is precisely why it's a great place to find beaches that most tourists overlook. If they aren't deserted, then they're packed with attractive Eastern European hotties. You can't lose. Read this guest post to learn more....
Guest Post by Aleksandar Mijailovic
Eastern Europe and the Balkans may not be economically advanced as some of the other countries on the continent but in terms of summer holidays, the beautiful sea, beaches and anything else related to sea and sun, they can certainly counteract their more developed neighbors. Below, we bring you some of the most beautiful beaches in the Eastern Europe, mainly along the Balkan coast. Enjoy.
10. Ksamil beach, Albania
Small, coastal village of Ksamil has beautiful, white sandy beach, situated in southern Albania. Across the water, there are several small islands, each of which has its own bar. Islands were not far from land, which means you can swim there and you can go with boat also. The water is clear, not too cold or deep.
I've been interviewed three times on Rick Steves's national station show, which airs on 170 radio stations. Here are links to all the shows:
1. In my first show in 2012, we talked about The Hidden Europe. You can hear it now as a podcast. My interview with him starts at minute 14. Download the MP3 now! Rick called The Hidden Europe "an invigorating narrative packed with useful tips and colorful stories. . . . It's an entertaining summary of [Eastern Europe]."
2. In February 2013, right before I left to visit all 54 African countries, Rick interviewed me. Hear it now.
3. The last time Rick interviewed me was in August 2013, when I talked about the Bumpy Balkans.
Rick Steves has been one of my heroes because he's always advocated independent travel and encouraged Americans to fly across an ocean to explore.
Therefore, it was an absolute honor to be on his show.
As Rick himself admitted, he's focused most of his life on Western Europe. I was thrilled that he was interested in revealing Europe's hidden side: Eastern Europe.
It's impossible to adequately cover a 750-page book that covers 25 countries in a 25-minute interview.
Slovenia is one of the most politically stable and safe countries in Europe. It has excellent infrastructure and the people are well-educated. It is located between the Balkans and Western Europe and has breathtaking landscapes and mountains.
One can get around in Slovenia by hiking through the well-preserved and eye-catching countryside that is covered in greenery almost from when one leaves the city. Hiking is very popular with their being a remarkable choice of trails to hike through, from the easy walks passing along foothills and valleys, to more invigorating walls in the protected trails in the mountains where one can also enjoy the breathtaking alpine peaks. Slovenia has approximately 20,000 kilometers of marked out trails that are accessible all year round provided the hiker has the right equipment and the weather conditions are good.
If one wants to enjoy the city, one can have a sightseeing tour of the capital Ljubljana and tour the great sights in Bled, where you can view the lake and castle. You can also visiting the island in Bled's lake by traveling using a boat or you might want to walk round the lake and having a picnic while enjoying the breathtaking view.
The Balkan Peninsula is a culturally diverse region. Therefore, its cuisine offers a great variety, too. The culinary traditions of the countries that make up the peninsula are as similar as they are different from each other. What contributes the most in terms of variety is the fact that the more you go east, the more you can feel the oriental flavor. In this sense, the Balkans are something like the border between the West and the East, both culturally and culinary.
What follows is a short, but informative, description of three notable types of Balkan cuisine.